The Energy Company Enbridge Inc. says up to 1,500 barrels of oil may have leaked from its pipeline in the Northwest Territories last month, much higher than the company's initial estimate of four barrels.
On May 9, Enbridge Inc. reported that it had confirmed a crude oil leak from a pipeline on its Norman Wells System (Line 21) approximately 50 km south of the community of Wrigley, NWT. On May 20th Enbridge returned the Norman Wells line to service after completing the necessary repairs.
According to Enbridge Inc., the oil remains contained and there are no impacts to moving water. Their original four barrel estimate was based on oil collected at the surface and did not take into account the subsurface impacts, which were believed to be not significantly, which they were.
The increase in subsurface oil was discovered during the ongoing environmental site assessment, which includes subsurface analysis and is standard practice for all releases. Based on current estimates provided by the third party experts on site, Enbridge anticipates the release volume could range from a minimum of 700 barrels to a maximum of 1,500 barrels. Based on its current analysis, Enbridge anticipates the probability that the maximum volume would be exceeded to be low. The company has confirmed that they have removed approximately 100 barrels of oil.
Chief wants inquiry
The massive increase did not surprise the Wrigley Chief, Tim Lennie, who was among the first people to discover the leak. Lennie said while people in Wrigley, a community of over 100, had suspected it was a larger spill all along, the latest news is still hard to digest.
"It's anger, it's frustration. I'm quite certain with this news, there will be more questions," he said. "There needs to be an inquiry on this, I feel now." states Lennie.
River not affected, says company
Third party experts are onsite and the company is working to define the subsurface impacts. Once this work is complete, a revised estimate of the size of the release can be determined. The company continues to recover oil and is shipping it off site. Contaminated water is being treated onsite. Contaminated soil will be removed once site conditions allow.
Enbridge says it is important to note that the oil is contained in an area along and directly adjacent to the right of way and that no watercourses are threatened. There continues to be no impact to the Willowlake River. The area will be continued to be monitored closely. Crews of approximately 15 people, comprised of Enbridge and contract support personnel, are onsite and continue to recover crude oil, and conduct environmental assessment activities.
Tim Lenniw Lennie however states that he has heard from people living in the area that the spill has impacted the area.
The National Energy Board says it has no reason to doubt the information it has received from Enbridge, where the information from Enbridge is considered safe.
The Norman Wells pipeline was back up and running on May 20, after repairs were made. Enbridge says the cause of the pipeline leak remains under investigation.